Sundance Day 2!
My first film of the day is a 12:30pm showing of "To Be Takei". This showing will be different from the first two in a couple of ways. First off, it is screening at the Rose Wagner Theatre in Salt Lake City instead of Park City (this makes it a much shorter drive and easier to park). Second, my fest partner Audrey has been able to get actual real-life tickets to this one. So this time, we will certainly have seats as long as we show up at least 15 minutes prior to showtime. We get there about 25 minutes before and get in line - actually the end of a very long line. This thing is clearly a sell out and I hear the volunteers whispering that almost no one from the famous "waitlist" is getting in. If you don't have a pass or a prepaid ticket, you're outta luck for this one.
Audrey and I take our seats in the balcony and settle in for the Mr. Sulu documentary. It turns out to be a charmer. George Takei and his husband Brad prove more than capable of being comfortable in front of the prying camera as it follows them from conventions, stage rehearsals, gay pride parades and other personal appearances. Takei is a busy dude, clearly in demand and a marvelously fit 75 year old who looks as if he hasn't gained a pound since his "Star Trek" days and shows almost boundless energy.
Although you expect Takei to be polished and glib on camera (and he certainly is), his husband Brad proves to be a pleasant surprise as his fussy,detail-oriented manager. Brad also has a good sense of humor and is not afraid to put George in his place where warranted. Brad looks like he is enjoying the film crew and is proud of his husband's accomplishments. It is obvious this is a strong marriage where mutual love and respect is the order of the day, every day.
Although light in tone with plenty of wonderful laughs and naughty double-entendres (especially when the crew follows him into Howard Stern's studio), there is some heft when Takei details his family's suffering during the WW2 internment of Japanese Americans. It affected Takei deeply and his eloquent and dignified speeches before audiences is quite a testament to his toughness.
But overall, this is a very entertaining look at an interesting man who knows who he is and charges full steam ahead for LGBT civil rights while somehow never being anything less than dignified even when he is roasting William Shatner ("Bill, my name is pronounced TAKEI...as in TOUPEE!")
Travelling back to Park City, I decide to take a huge chance and waitlist for the new Steve James ("Hoop Dreams) documentary "Life Itself", based on the personal memoir of the late Roger Ebert. My number is 153(!) and while The Marc theatre is large (550 seats), I have a lot of people ahead of me. But the Sundance Spirits are with me and I manage to get in again.
For this doc,Ebert gave James total access to his life while he struggled with massive health issues. Watching Roger endure the daily agony of getting his lungs suctioned is very difficult to watch at first. But with his ever-present and loving wife Chaz, you can understand why Ebert refuses to give up hope. There are some surpises in the doc - like how his drinking problem was actually quite serious in the late 70's and that he met his wife in an A.A. meeting. Most of this was fairly familiar ground for me regarding his professional background, but when it came to Roger the person, I felt like I knew him better afterwards. Ebert passed away during the production of this doc and James handles this in a very moving way without being exploitive or macabre. If you were a fan of Roger Ebert (and I was), this is a must-see.